Arts Column with Conor Malone

Arts Column with Conor Malone
This week’s highlights

This week’s highlights

Caislean Oir is in the middle of its An Grianan run and continues nightly at 8pm til Saturday, with an afternoon showing at 2.30pm on Saturday. The Clearing opened at The Playhouse in Derry runs nightly at 8pm until Saturday.

Elsewhere, tonight is the third and final night of the Donegal Secondary Schools’ Drama Festival at the Balor, Ballybofey. Tonight will feature students from: St Columba’s College, Stranorlar; Royal and Prior, Raphoe; and Falcarragh Community School, as well as the final adjudication. There’s more youth theatre at The Balor on Saturday, with the Balor Youth Theatre’s end of season performance day, shows at 12 noon and 2pm.

The Balor hosts the Ballybofey & Stranorlar Women’s Group Variety Concert on Friday. Acts include the Smith & McCarron School of Irish Dancing, Blue Ribbon dance troupe and Castlefinn Youth Drummers. All proceeds go to the very worthy causes of Little Angels, Letterkenny and the Twin Towns branch of Saint Vincent de Paul.

The comedy juggernaut that is Conal Gallen’s A Bit On The side rolls into The Alley, Strabane for three nights – this Friday to Sunday - while Christy Moore and Declan Sinnott play The Millennium Forum in Derry on Friday and Saturday. The music of Rory Gallagher is celebrated in Band Of Friends at An Grianan, Letterkenny on Sunday.

Brendan at The Chelsea tells the story of Brendan Behan at New Yorks legendary Chelsea Hotel next Tuesday and Wednesday at The Millennium in Derry. Maire - A Woman of Derry is at The Alley, Strabane next week and Guaranteed!, Fishamble’s topical look into the banking fiasco – is at An Grianan, Letterkenny next Wednesday.


Is it really that time of year again? Oh yes it is. (Oh no it isn’t!) Em, yes, it actually is. It’s time for the Balor’s annual panto which is pretty much the unofficial start of Christmas in the Twin Towns.

This year’s offering is Sinbad The Sailor. It’s a tale of the good, the bad and the beautiful as our hero Sinbad must escape the clutches of the wicked Hedes and win the hand of the beautiful Princess Almira. They’re joined by a cast of thousands (slight exaggeration, it’s actually about 50) including comedy duo Scratch & Sniff, the Goddess Aphrodite, The Grand Vizier Samir, a witch doctor, Cyclops, Medusa and a chorus of Sailors, Villagers, Sirens, Islanders and Demons for a show in the best traditions of pantomime – full of laughter, romance, singing and dancing, both on the high seas and in the underworld.

The Butt Drama Circle, and especially director Kathleen McGowan and musical director Kathleen Browne, do Trojan work for this show every year and it really is a Christmas institution at this stage. And this year, with reduced pricing, it’s arguably the best value entertainment in the country,

Sinbad The Sailor opens on Saturday week, November 23 and runs for two weeks, finishing on Friday, December 6. The Saturday and Sunday shows are at 4pm with the weeknight shows at 8pm. There are no shows on Mondays. Tickets are just €10 for adults, €6 for children with a family ticket (1 adults and 2 children) available for €30. Group rates for large parties are also available on request. For booking, quotes and general information contact The Balor Box Office on 074 913 1840.

In the Nama The Father

If you accept that one of the functions of art is to hold a mirror up to society then it’s surprising and somewhat disappointing that Ireland’s economic crisis hasn’t spawned more work. After all, the bank guarantee, Anglo and the loss of economic sovereignty that followed is arguably the most momentous event in Irish history since the civil war. The fear is there’s a certain self censorship in operation here. With arts organisations around the country living in fear of funding cuts, it’s safer to remount work that addresses crises from a hundred years ago rather than risk offending the powers that be (and hold the purse strings) by commentating on contemporary ones.

Fishamble: The New Play Company and author Colin Murphy are to be commended therefore for Guaranteed! – the play about the bank guarantee that comes to An Grianan next week. It’s a play in three acts – the first act gives us Seanie Fitzpatrick rhapsodising about Anglo while Bertie Ahern engages in auction politics – outbidding his rivals for votes in the General Election.

The second act portrays the growing frenzy of September 2008 as Lehman’s collapses and Irish banks are brought to the brink. On September 29, in a bid to save Anglo and the Irish economy, the government make the now infamous decision to pass the Bank Guarantee. Like any good tragedy, we know what’s going to happen. But there’s real drama in seeing the characters trying to escape or ignore it.

When the lights go up, the cast leaves and a small panel comes on stage to discuss and debate with the audience.

Guaranteed! premiered this summer fortuitously at the same time as the Anglo tapes were released – you can’t buy marketing like that. It really touched a nerve, selling out everywhere with the president and the governor of the Central Bank among those who came to see it. Now it comes to An Grianan, Letterkenny and, it really is a must see. It may be the closest thing we’ll ever get to a banking enquiry.

Guaranteed! is at An Grianan next Wednesday, November 20 at 8pm. Tickets are €15 (€12 concession) and are available from An Grianan on 074 912 0777 or online at

Messin’ with The Kid

Rory Gallagher may have only spent the first couple of months of his life in Donegal – he was born in Ballyshannon before his family moved first to Derry and then to Cork – but that’s never stopped us celebrating him as one of our own.

Band Of Friends comes to An Grianan Theatre, Letterkenny this weekend, celebrating the life and music of the guitar legend. This is more than just a tribute act. It features bassist Gerry McAvoy who played with Rory for 20 years – 1971 to 1991 – playing on every album he ever made. Drummer Ted McKenna powered Gallagher’s live shows between ’77 and ’81, also appearing on the Photo Finish, Top Priority and Stage Struck albums. No pressure then on Dutch guitarist/vocalist Marcel Scherpenzeel who has some pretty big shoes to fill. Although, if Gerry and Ted are happy that he’s the nearest thing you’ll get to Rory Gallagher, that should be enough for the rest of us.

Band Of Friends play the music of the late, great Rory Gallagher this Sunday at 8pm at An Grianan, Letterkenny. Tickets are €20 available from An Grianan on 074 912 0777 or online at

Letterkenny One Act Drama Festival

The inaugural Letterkenny One Act Drama Festival takes place in An Grianan Theatre next week. It’s a three night festival, Thursday to Saturday with nine one act plays from as far away as Cork, Athlone and Clare. Three groups will perform each night with the final adjudication by Larry McCluskey taking place on the Saturday. Performances will last between 15 and 40 minutes, with the first play at 7.30pm nightly.

This is a completely new venture for drama enthusiasts in Letterkenny and kudos are due to the 10-person voluntary committee who have worked tirelessly over the past months to bring the festival to fruition.

The festival schedule is as follows. Thursday will see Two Bridges Theatre Group, Strabane perform Pinky’s Promise followed by Phoenix Players, Tubercurry with Anastasia and Amphitheatre from Clares production of Effie’s Burning.

Stagefright Theatre Co. Omagh open the second night with Reports Are Coming In. Haulbowline Theatre Group have made the journey all the way from Cork with their production of One Season’s King and Corn Mill Theatre Group, Carrigallen perform Shoebox and Whiskey.

The third and final night kicks off with Tell Me, courtesy of At Large Theatre group, Dublin. Next off is Athlone Little Theatre, performing With Bells On and City Limits, Dublin bring the festival to a close with Semper Fidelis.

So that’s nine performances over three nights – Thursday to Saturday, November 21 to 23, at 7.30pm nightly. Admission is great value at only €8 per night. Or, if you become a friend of the festival for the princely sum of €25, you’ll receive two tickets for each night (which is €48 worth of tickets if my maths is correct). Contact An Grianan on 074 912 0777 for bookings and more information.